Why Do Awards Shows Have a Red Carpet?

Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

For the world premiere of the action-adventure film Robin Hood on October 18, 1922, Sid Grauman—owner of Los Angeles's Egyptian Theatre—decided he would embellish the spectacle of seeing stars like Douglas Fairbanks arrive by having them walk on a red carpet. Grauman had workers unfurl the carpet outside the theater on Hollywood Boulevard. It wasn’t just the first time a premiere had used such an adornment—it was the first movie premiere, period.

Grauman probably didn’t realize it at the time, but his selection of color would be imitated at other premieres before being adopted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1961. At that year’s Oscars ceremony, attendees walked a red carpet to arrive at the auditorium, a parade of glamour and social status that might be the closest thing the United States has to a royal class. When the arrivals started airing on television in 1964—and the carpet’s color was telecast for the first time for those owning a color set in 1966—red carpets and Hollywood became intertwined.

Workers unroll the red carpet at the 2017 Academy Awards
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

If Grauman inspired the Academy, who or what inspired Grauman? According to cultural historian Amy Anderson, he was following in the footsteps of those who considered a red carpet synonymous with wealth, power, and status. In 458 BCE, the play Agamemnon portrayed a king invited to walk a “crimson path” by his calculating wife tired of her husband’s violent ways. In the 15th century, the Aztecs and Mayans considered scarlet-colored carpeting to be a symbol of prosperity, with the dye (made from the cochineal insect) considered a rare and valuable commodity. Like an expensive car or watch, a red carpet implies luxury.

Of more recent history for Grauman was the use of a red carpet for the New York Central Railroad in the early 1900s. Passengers were guided by the path and used it to navigate toward their boarding entrances. He may have even heard that President James Monroe was reportedly invited to walk a red carpet when he got off a riverboat in Georgetown, South Carolina in 1821.

The tradition has become more elaborate than ever. At the annual Academy Awards ceremony, carpet vendors Signature Systems Group will unroll 50,000 square feet of carpet, working a total of 900 man-hours to make sure the 900-foot-long, 33-foot-wide path is ready to be walked upon by the cast of Blade Runner 2049.

Those within a few feet of it might realize the iconic red carpet is not actually red: Signature representatives say it’s more of a burgundy.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Presidents Day vs. President's Day vs. Presidents' Day: Which One Is It?

iStock
iStock

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" implies that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Full vs. Queen Mattress: What's the Difference?

iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd
iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

If you’re in the market for a new mattress this Presidents Day weekend (the holiday is traditionally a big one for mattress retailers), one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is regarding size. Most people know a king mattress offers the most real estate, but the difference between a full-sized mattress and a queen-sized one provokes more curiosity. Is it strictly a matter of width, or are depth and length factors? Is there a recommended amount of space for each slumbering occupant?

Fortunately, mattress manufacturers have made things easier by adhering to a common set of dimensions, which are sized as follows:

Crib: 27 inches wide by 52 inches long

Twin: 38 inches wide by 75 inches long

Full: 53 inches wide by 75 inches long

Queen: 60 inches wide by 80 inches long

King: 76 inches wide by 80 inches long

Depth can vary across styles. And while you can find some outliers—there’s a twin XL, which adds 5 inches to the length of a standard twin, or a California king, which subtracts 4 inches from the width and adds it to the length—the four adult sizes listed above are typically the most common, with the queen being the most popular. It's 7 inches wider than a full (sometimes called a “double”) mattress and 5 inches longer.

In the 1940s, consumers didn’t have as many options. Most people bought either a twin or full mattress. But in the 1950s, a post-war economy boost and a growing average height for Americans contributed to an increasing demand for larger bedding.

Still, outsized beds were a novelty and took some time to fully catch on. Today, bigger is usually better. If your bed is intended for a co-sleeping arrangement with a partner, chances are you’ll be looking at a queen. A full mattress leaves each occupant only 26.5 inches of width, which is actually slightly narrower than a crib mattress intended for babies and toddlers. A queen offers 30 inches, which is more generous but still well below the space provided by a person sleeping alone in a twin or full. For maximum couple comfort, you might want to consider a king, which is essentially like two twin beds being pushed together.

Your preference could be limited by the size of your bedroom—you might not be able to fit a nightstand on each side of a wider bed, for example—and whether you’ll have an issue getting a larger mattress up stairs and/or around tricky corners. Your purchase will also come down to a laundry list of options like material and firmness, but knowing which size you want helps narrow down your choices.

One lingering mystery remains: Why do we tend to shop for mattresses on Presidents Day weekend? One reason could be time. The three-day weekend is one of the first extended breaks since the December holidays, giving people an opportunity to trial different mattress types and deliberate with a partner. Shopping Saturday and Sunday allows people to sleep on it before making a decision.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER